The Toothpick

Monochrome Madness: Week 42


Me and my shadow


Well, the snow fell hard and fast late last week, and since then we’ve had just one day of sunshine.

Fortunately I had my camera with me that day and took advantage of the pleasant (but cold) conditions to capture a few moments.

Much to the barn manager’s chagrin some of the horses are nibbling the apparently tasty cedar rail fences that surround the paddocks.

Much to my chagrin, Bear numbers among them.

Goodness knows between three generous daily feeds, a bounteous supply of hay and an ample helping of carrots he’s fed well enough.

Perhaps this is his answer to the toothpick?

Thanks for visiting …



©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Confusion Reigns. Well, not completely …

Daily Prompt: Confusion

As I write this my eyes drift to the right of the computer screen occasionally. I’m wondering when the heck the last 20 per cent or so of my wedding photo book, which I’m uploading (downloading?) to Apple, is finally going to transfer its cyber-butt into the ether.

I’ve been sitting here for more than 90 minutes already, waiting for the royal blue measuring stick to reach the end. Chained to my computer, am I, because to leave would render it to “sleep.” The upload would cancel and I’d have to start the process all … over … again.

I’d prefer not to do that.

It’s not that my computer is old, or slow. We purchased this lovely spanking new Apple desktop with all its bells and whistles this past the summer. It’s in perfectly good order.

No, it’s not the computer. It can’t be. Surely. It’s probably … Oh, I don’t know …

I’m a writer. I spend a lot of time in front the computer flexing my creative muscle. I’m no techno-genius. I just want my techno-partner to do what it’s designed to do while I do what I’m designed to do. Write. And edit my photographs. And create pretty photo books.

But right now, I am confused. Confused as to why  a simple upload is taking so (insert expletive here) long to complete.

Should I abandon it and start again? Or give up entirely and gaze wistfully at wedding memories stored online and wonder “what if that silly book had uploaded?”

Perhaps I ought to disable the “sleep” timer on the computer for now. Will that help?

My eyes drift to the right of the screen and … [sigh] … the blue measuring stick has not moved even a tiny bit. It must be hung up.

I’m confused.



I’ll try again tomorrow morning. Any suggestions?


I may be confused about technology, but there’s no confusion when it comes to how I feel about my darling Abbey …

Portrait of Abbey


Thanks for visiting  …

Dorothy 🙂

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013


More Confusion

Land of the Creepers | sayanything
Confusion | thinkerscap
Land of Confusion | The Nameless One
Through a Telescope | Badkarmosity
Daily prompt: Land of confusion | ferwam
Studeren en sociale contacten: nog steeds verbaasd | autitekst
Daily Prompt: Out Of Place In This Land Of Confusion | My Daily Prompt Blog
Land of Confusion | Finale to an Entrance
222. Dazed and Confused | Barely Right of Center
SO RE-IRRI-LAT-ABLE.. | ayimas
Frail looking man | crookedeyebrows
Daily Prompt: Land of Confusion | Awl and Scribe
Daily Prompt ~ Standing Out in Confusion | Misifusa’s Blog
Path to Nowhere | Broken Light: A Photography Collective
Soulful Poet… | Haiku By Ku
Guest Post Q&A: A Lifetime Struggle With Mental Illness | Momma Roars
lost | not4faintheartsblog
Bizarre | Mara Eastern’s Personal Blog
Moon and Sun Meet | Love The Bees
Daily Prompt – Matters of Confusion | My Gap Year Adventure

Here’s a Character … The Comic Shakespeare

Daily Prompt: It Builds Character

Day four of NaBloPoMo


Here’s a character.

My fun and loveable equine companion, Shakespeare, aka Bear.


I’m so glad he’s the comic Shakespeare.

Nothing like having a character in your life that makes you smile. 🙂


Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy 🙂


Other Characters

  1. Character | The Magic Black Book
  2. Daily Prompt: It Builds Character | Basically Beyond Basic
  3. Daily Prompt: It Builds Character | Under the Monkey Tree
  4. Little Red and the Wolf | It’s a wonderful F’N life
  5. Interesting Character | Kansa Muse
  6. Fallen Tree: Up Close (Character) | photo potpourri
  7. Character From Art | The Ambitious Drifter
  8. The last gunslinger | dawnyhosking
  9. A Short Conversation With Two Characters | The Jittery Goat
  10. Miss Havisham | CombatBabe
  11. A Sign Of Life
  12. Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin | Bright Moments Catcher
  13. Daily Prompt: It Builds Character | Awl and Scribe
  14. Daily Prompt: Somewhere Over the… | One Starving Activist
  15. Favorite Character | Crow Arrow, Inc.
  16. Dear Heathcliff… | alienorajt
  17. Taming Insanity | Finale to an Entrance
  18. 210. Character Chat | Barely Right of Center
  19. Daily Prompt: It Builds Character « Mama Bear Musings
  20. Better Person | crookedeyebrows

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy … A Winning Smile

Some people say you can’t know when a horse is happy.

I beg to differ.

Like unhappy people, unhappy horses prefer not to be the centre of attention.

I wouldn’t say my horse, Shakespeare, has that problem, would you?  Not with that winning smile …

Me thinks he hath a comic wit … 😉

This makes me happy …


Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy 🙂


Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2012

Moxie’s Excellent Swimming Adventure … Georgian Bay, Ontario


My name is Moxie. I’m a Labradoodle and would like to share my excellent swimming adventure with you.

It was a hot and humid afternoon in August when daddy decided he wanted to teach me how to swim.

I played hard to get. First of all, I won’t follow a man, even one I trust, just anywhere. And secondly, I don’t like getting wet. Hasn’t he learned anything from my visits to the groomer?

But daddy insisted and I watched anxiously as he waded into the rolling, tepid waters of Georgian Bay …

“C’mon, Moxie!” he called to me encouragingly. “The water’s nice and warm! You’ll love it!”

As if!

But I wanted to be with daddy, and soon realized it wasn’t a matter of trust at all, it was more about not wanting to get wet. I’m cranky on bad hair days at the best of times.

Still, I took a closer look at the water. It was wet, alright. And meanwhile, daddy’s Scottish brogue wafted from the lake like a siren calling to me.

I was unsure.

“Go on, Moxie, you can do it!” Encouraged mommy, Uncle Lloyd and Auntie Dot.

“Could I?” I wondered. I stepped gingerly into the tepid pool at my feet …

… and gazed longingly out to the body of the lake before me. Daddy was standing in it up to his knees, flipping the water with his hands as if to show me how playful it was. But the waves were rolling and still I wasn’t sure. So I ducked out.

“Oh, Moxie …” he moaned. “We can’t quit that easily.”

And then I couldn’t believe what happened next.

Daddy waded back to shore, picked me up and carried me into the lake. I was too stunned to struggle. This was really happening!

“You know, Moxie,” Daddy admonished lovingly, “if you just try it I know you’ll like it.”

He placed me gently into the rippling water and held me until I found my sea legs.

“See, Moxie! It’s not so bad.”

My eyes glazed over as I wondered if this was all a bad dream.

“Now, Moxie …” daddy reassured, “you stand right here for a moment, and see how you like it.”


I planted my feet on the shiny round stones under the water and braced for each wave that washed up against my bottom. Sure, I was safely tethered to daddy. He hadn’t gone too far away. But I was not amused. I just wanted to go home.

“Good girl!” A chorus of celebration erupted from the shore.

“Good girl, Moxie!” came the brogue. “I’m proud of you, my lass.”

With that daddy gently led me back to the others and a shower of pats and kisses. I was relieved. At last we were done.

But then …

“Tomorrow we’ll try again, Moxie.”

Oh, pooh …!


I slept like a dog that night .

The next morning we headed north of Honey Harbour for a motor boat ride … daddy trying one out for fun. Held in mommy’s arms, all I could think of was daddy’s jolly pronouncement “Tomorrow we’ll try again!”

But, it was tomorrow, and we were on a boat. Maybe he’d forgotten what he’d said. Maybe this boat ride was today’s adventure. I could only hope …

With that pleasant thought resting in my mind I finally had a chance to enjoy some of the Muskoka scenery …

Alas, my canine bubble was to burst during the car ride back to Victoria Harbour.

“Hey, Moxie! You ready for another swim?”

Sigh …


This time they took me to a sandy beach. Much happier for my feet, I must say. Happily, I remembered the previous day’s swimming lesson and was less tentative than I thought I would be. I just followed daddy right into the water … and swam. 🙂

Every once in a while I would take a rest on one of the large stones gracing the lake bottom (in the shallow end, of course). Even the doggy paddle is hard work. Also, perched there I could better absorb the continuous swell of congratulations coming from my fan club. I felt very pleased with myself. …

… and then I just got tired and wanted to go home to my squeaky toy.


That evening, we stood on the shore of the lake and watched a beautiful crimson sunset float over the horizon …

And then Mother Nature surprised us by sending a special acknowledgement of my success that day.

“Hey! Look up there!” cried mommy to everyone. “There’s Moxie!” And sure enough there I was … captured in the wisp of a passing cloud. Can you see me? There’s a dove flying by my nose too. So cool …

A fitting end to my excellent swimming adventure …

Thanks for reading my shaggy dog story.

Woofs and wags,



Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy 🙂

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

A Night at the Opera? … Vienna, Austria

During our trip to Vienna in September 2011, we decided to go to the Vienna State Opera (Staatsoper) to see Don Giovanni. We try to visit the grand opera houses in the European cities we visit, if not for a performance at least for a peek inside. We were in Vienna for a few days. Don Giovanni was playing. So, we decided we’d go.

For expediency sake we ordered our last-minute tickets through the very obliging hotel concierge. He assured us he’d be able to secure our coveted tickets for that evening’s performance so we left the task in his capable hands. Later that day we picked them up and, in his broken English, the young concierge expressed his hope that we would enjoy our evening at the opera.

We were thrilled. After all, who couldn’t enjoy Don Giovanni — considered one of Mozart’s greatest operas — in the composer’s old stomping grounds, Vienna?

Psyched for our impending operatic experience, we dressed in our finest travelling duds, enjoyed a tasty repast in the hotel’s five-star restaurant and walked the 10 minutes along Wiedner Hauptstrasse to the impressive Staatsoper.

Like many of the grand opera houses of Europe, the Staatsoper is a legend unto itself.

This Neo-Renaissance State Opera House opened in May 1869 with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. However, the Emperor Franz Joseph, not finding the edifice that appealing, dismissed it as akin to “a railway station.” This snub ultimately lead to one of the building’s architects, Eduard van der Null, committing suicide.

... Loggia ...

And then, during World War II, the opera house was bombed and, but for the original loggia dominating the building’s front, was virtually destroyed. It reopened in 1955, complete with all the latest in theatre technology.

Getting back to our date with Don Giovanni, we arrived early so we could take a look around and revel in the pre-performance atmosphere. The Staatsoper’s foyer and grand marble staircase complete with frescoes, mirrors, chandeliers and statues were such a feast for the eyes it was a challenge to know where to look next.

Eventually we made our way to our seats in the ground floor stalls — we didn’t skimp — and parked ourselves to people watch.

What kinds of people attended the opera in Vienna? (All kinds) How did they dress? (From diamonds to denim.) Where did they come from? (Everywhere, I imagined.) It was all part of the exciting experience of going to the opera in Vienna.

And then I realized we didn’t have a performance program. So, I headed over to a friendly young female usher, gave her the requisite Euros (10, I think — I bought two programs) and practically skipped back to our wonderful seats six rows from the stage.

I could almost feel the roar of the grease paint. I could definitely smell the crowd (they love their fragrance in Vienna). I’ve been to more than 100 opera performances in my life and anticipating the rising curtain, the set design, costumes, and director’s interpretation is part of the thrill. What kind of experience were we in for this evening?

After giving Lloyd his copy of the program I sunk back into my plush red velvet seat and began to flip through the substantial book’s shiny pages, looking for the story outline.

But I couldn’t find it.

I flipped through it back to front. Perhaps I’d missed it somehow. Still no sign of it.

And then my mind started to race. What are all these pictures of …? What’s this Balanchine and Robbins business? No, it couldn’t be. Perhaps, like the programs at home, this was showcasing other performances during the upcoming season.

I continued my search for a Don Giovanni summary in vain. I turned to Lloyd. He, too, seemed perplexed.

“Did you buy the right program?” he asked, his voice haunted with impending disappointment.

“Yes … I’m sure of it … it’s what the usher gave me.” I replied, feeling equally doomed.

We looked at our ticket stubs. And there it was, the final stab of defeat … what we’d thought was advertising for another event turned out to be the performance we were attending.

We went to the opera … and the Vienna State Ballet broke out — the premier performance of Balanchine and Robbins. We’d missed the final performance of Don Giovanni by one night. 😦

I wonder what the concierge was thinking?

Oh well, we put our disappointment in our pocket and, with an open mind, enjoyed an unexpected foray into ballet.

I guess we’ll just have to go back to Vienna for the opera some day …

I can take it.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy 🙂

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012

Heelun Coo … A Scottish Mystery

A couple of years ago I entered an international travel writing contest sponsored by a British travel and history magazine. The challenge was to write in 500 words or less about an experience at a national historic site somewhere in the United Kingdom.

I grew up in London and have been back to visit the UK several times since so figured I should have at least one story to share, and to do it in 500 words or less … well, that was a challenge I relished. The possibility of winning a trip to bonny Scotland was a pleasant incentive too.

Fortunately I didn’t need to dig too deep into the memory bank to find my material.

What follows is my contest entry entitled “Heelun Coo.” I’m happy to say it was runner-up and garnered me a two-night stay for two at the lovely Auchrannie Spa and Resort on the Isle of Arran in Scotland, as well as publication in the magazine.

Fortunately we were able to append this unexpected jaunt to our already planned trip to Holland and Germany in spring 2010.

As I was unable to capture an image of the subject of my story, (and you’ll read why), I offer up these classic Scottish images instead.

In the spring, the Scottish countryside is resplendent with gorse — a thorny evergreen shrub with bright yellow flowers that emit the sweet, heady fragrance of coconut. It seemed to me, as I captured images of the Arran landscape, that the cast of light couldn’t help but be tinted by the golden glow of this prolific growing shrub.

Every time I look at an image of gorse I can still smell the coconut.

And now, here it is, my prize-winning …

Heelun Coo 

“Heelun coos? Did he just say keep an eye open for ‘heelun coos’?”

I turned to look at my partner – he just shrugged. We were on a day trip by bus from Edinburgh into the Scottish Highlands and Will, our tour guide, had an extraordinarily thick accent. What the heck was a ‘heelun coo?’

As we travelled the high roads and low roads to our ultimate destination, Glen Coe, I fixed my gaze upon the wondrously ancient rolling hills, carved into sections by low stone walls that seemed to go on forever. The fields were punctuated by myriad cotton ball lambs bouncing around their tired mothers. But I’ll be darned if I could spot the elusive ‘heelun coo.’

By the time we reached Glen Coe, Will had regaled us with epic tales of political intrigue and battles won and lost, and my mind had drifted over the rising hills picturing the murder and mayhem of centuries of tortured Scottish history. Along the way we stopped for delicious hot chocolate in Pitlochrie and a bumpy boat ride on Loch Ness. The monster proved to be as elusive as the ever mysterious ‘heelun coo!’

But it was at Glen Coe, with its dramatic landscape scooping below and towering above, that the heart of my imagination really began to beat.

Will had been preparing us for this moment the entire trip, offering up the Reader’s Digest version of the famous massacre of the sleeping Clan MacDonald by the light of a frosty moon.

“Th’ Campbells ‘old a spee…cial place in Scottish ‘istory,” he explained, and proceeded to mock spit to demonstrate the universal contempt felt for their dirty deed.

And it wasn’t that the MacDonalds were particularly saintly that made this such a heinous event. No, the Campbells had dissed “the code” of Highland hospitality by murdering their hosts in cold blood. As aptly shown by Will’s demonstration of disdain the Campbells had yet to live this moment down!

He told us that some of the MacDonalds had managed to escape that terrible night. As I sat upon a welcoming boulder and breathed in the heathered air of this storied corner of bonny Scotland I looked to the hilltops and imagined how those terrified souls might have scrambled their way to liberty on that cold February night in 1692. I wondered how far they had to go to feel safe. My ruminations were interrupted by the loping of three majestic Roe Deer through the valley floor. This led me to wonder if ‘heelun coos’ – whatever they were – had existed then too?

All too soon Will beckoned us to the bus. As we wended our way back to Edinburgh another traveller as perplexed as I finally asked the definitive question:

“What’s a heelun coo?”

Will laughed. He pointed out the bus window. As fate would have it there appeared, in that moment, our very first sighting of a mighty hairy beast with horns … the Highland cow!

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012

A Thing for Guinness

This was one of those blink-and-you-miss-it moments in Dublin, Ireland, last spring.

At the time I was sitting at the back of the upper deck of a double decker bus during a guided tour of the old city. We’d just gone around the Guinness brewery at St. James Gate and were heading back to James Street when I happened, just happened, to look to my right where a number of decrepit buildings sat.

Imagine my surprise when this little masterpiece came into view.

With no time to think about it I just started clicking away hoping that I would capture something of reasonable quality.

As far as I can remember no one else on the bus noticed it, because there were no other expressions of surprise. By the time I was able to tell my friend about it, it was gone.

So, if you’re ever taking a guided tour of Dublin in a double decker bus, be sure to keep your eyes peeled around the Guinness brewery (I think you’ll find this on Crane Street) for the red head with a thing for Guiness.

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012